Free the Weed

Seeing how it’s the time of year when billows of pungent smoke pour out across the world (Happy 4/20 everyone!), let us take a few moments to reflect upon the insanity that is drug prohibition.

Suppose every myth you’ve been led to believe about drugs is true, and that they are really an evil scourge on society; destroying families, fueling crime, and turning our young people into mindless addicts. Even if all that were factually accurate (which it isn’t), there is still something far more destructive to our world than drugs themselves. And that something is drug prohibition.

The war on drugs costs billions of dollars, breaks apart millions of homes, kills thousands upon thousands annually, erodes our precious freedom, and props up criminal organizations to incredible heights of power. All the while having no tangible effect on the flow of narcotics around the world.

Drug prohibition is a policy that causes negative unintended consequences, contrary to the stated goals. This means criminalizing drugs is inherently flawed, and could never possibly work.

As economist Art Carden writes, “The demand curve for drugs is extremely inelastic, meaning that people don’t change their drug consumption very much in response to changes in prices. Therefore, vigorous enforcement means higher prices and higher revenues for drug dealers. In fact, I’ll defer to Cowen and Tabarrok—page 60 of the first edition, if you’re still curious—for a discussion of the basic economic logic:

The more effective prohibition is at raising costs, the greater are drug industry revenues. So, more effective prohibition means that drug sellers have more money to buy guns, pay bribes, fund the dealers, and even research and develop new technologies in drug delivery (like crack cocaine). It’s hard to beat an enemy that gets stronger the more you strike against him or her.”

So, while you may not like drugs and what they represent, that is no reason to forgo common sense. Recognize that prohibition hasn’t worked by now because it could never possibly work.

Open your eyes to alternatives, like decriminalization, taxation and regulation, for we need to try something different if we want results other than these constant failures.

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